Next-generation researcher training & infrastructure literacy BoF

Birds of a Feather (Research Support Community Day – UNSW)

Monday February 13, 2017 2:45pm

Joint discussion: Matthias Liffers, Curtin University – Next-generation researcher training + Ingrid Mason (AARNET) – Infrastructure Literacy

Matthias:

  • ResBaz (Research Bazaar) held in Perth from the 30/01/17-01/02/17, attended by 50+ students. Classes ran every day, each similar to the other and comprised both training and networking. Networking and making connections occurred during the social events. Third party providers were invited to talk to the HDR students.
  • Brisbane ResBaz 07/02/2017-09/02/2017, day one was set up like a market day. Researchers could network with groups that provided research infrastructure and other services. The subsequent days entailed the training component of the event.
  • Representatives from a private company who provide support for Amazon Web Services (commercial service to by computing power/ storage) were invited along.

Ingrid:

  • Session pitched to discuss literacy. There is a gap in research support in the provision of advice/ guidance for researchers so they understand what is available to them.
  • Sometimes support is just pointing researchers towards your own research infrastructure.
  • Data literacy, trying to support researchers to understand more about data management, and infrastructure literacy (example was given of a PhD student asking for assistance with data encryption).
  • People are increasingly going to want to take up use of (research) tools, but who will offer advice as to what tools are available to these students?
  • If there is to be a transformation of research practices, then there is going to have to be literacy training to help this come into play. Academic library community is in a position to assist with this?
  • This means asking the questions about technology we have not asked before, or even looking at technology critically to understand how well it may fit the needs of the researchers.
  • Amazon example given, if someone wanting a virtual server from Amazon how would they go about getting one? Who would be there to help offer advice and support? Do you think this is terrain, as a professional community we should tread into?

Matthias:

  • Librarians act as facilitators that connect people to information. Thus help guide people to information that might facilitate their needs.

Ingrid:

  • What else can we do to be intrepid and start tracking into this territory?

 

 

 

Audience member:

  • See this as a partnership. While we are not the experts in research data/ methods, we are the experts in publications and metadata. We therefore don not need to learn the things others (researchers) know.

Ingrid:

  • Yes, these are people that know a lot more than we do. Though as information experts we should be able to point researchers in the right direction. Though we cannot learn everything, I would really like to make sure researchers can get to who/ what they need.

Audience member:

  • As well as data literacy, publishing literacy is also an issue when there are so many options outside of the journal. As people can be their own publishers, they may not necessarily do things as well as professional publishers.

Ingrid:

  • There’s going to be a wave of students who want this kind of (information literacy) support service. I recognise that if this is about educating the current and coming generation of researchers. How do we tie all this in to literacy and work as a community effectively?

Audience member:

  • Do we need some kind of organisation or does someone like ANDS need to expand to train librarians in a whole lot of other areas?

Ingrid:

  • (Raises the question as to whether there a special interest/ working group that focuses on information literacy as a key contribution of LIS professionals.)

Audience member:

  • There is a digital literacy community of practice as part of CAUL that conduct webinars and a roundtable.

Audience member:

  • I would like to have the skills and know how to use some of these tools that researchers are engaging in. I can support researchers better if I understand these programs. Though having gone through research support training I would also like the chance to practice these skills.

Ingrid:

  • As a community there are a lot of people here who have the same ambition. That kind of shared interest as you say of connecting people to what they need is something we do extremely well. We are an extraordinary community of communicators.

Audience member:

  • I have been on both sides of the fence. I really like the carpentry workshops; I took my entire team to Brisbane last year. What I would say is that there is an entry level that is a bit beyond most people.

Ingrid:

  • This is really interesting, can you imagine what it is like for researchers. I was blown away the Digital Humanities Conference in 2015. There was this line of young PhDs, from Standford and they were doing unbelievable things with their research and I was thinking “Oh my god! What would I have to offer these researchers? What skills do I have?

Audience member:

  • What I think you would really have to offer is those connections. Don’t try to do everything, it is about pointing people in the right direction and knowing what is out there. In my experience, I pointed people towards the things you can get to. I know they exist but there is that communication thing you are talking about. Connecting the dots between what is around in an effective manner.

Audience member:

  • Is there a comprehensive resource in Australia that says that these are all the things that are available (to researchers?).

Ingrid:

  • We are fantastic at categorising, at editing. If you started a page it would be interesting to see how quickly it might fill. You see little bits of it through someone’s eyes, and someone else’s eyes, but to a researcher starting up in their career and they want to branch out and test out their techniques, how do they do that? If they are lucky they have some great people around them so they can steer them in the right direction. But there is a whole lot more effort I think that needs to come out definitely.

Audience member:

  • I was at the research conference, the organisers were having a chat on what they’ll do next and they said the standards of presentations have improved because of more librarians being involved in research, and presenting.

Ingrid:

  • No joke, if you think about your point (audience member) and how hard it is for people who are not accustomed to communicating to your average student, or average educated academic, they have that same barrier though I have absolutely agree that we have something to give, it is really about how to marshal our resources.

Ingrid:

  • Have people in here run programs to introduce researchers, higher degree or academics to research tools? You have, you have, so what did you do?

 

Audience member:

  • (Audience member discussed a visualisation and OpenRefine workshop they co-facilitated)

 

Ingrid:

  • One of the last things of that example is that is wasn’t you brining the expertise in, you were calling upon those that have (the expertise) and getting them in to do it. So training opportunities that come into play because you put the effort into coordinating it, so that was your research week?

Audience member:

  • When we rolled out our RDM tool we did about 40 sessions across the university. We also partnered with the vendor on the package search data.

Ingrid:

  • That in both cases is creating opportunity and brining people in. It is about grasping the opportunity to do it.

Matthias:

  • Something I have gotten involved with over the past year, another means of facilitating is to try and build a community of practice within the university on computing skills, programming, etc. I heard of Hacky Hour, it is an hour where people get together in a pub/ café and let it be known that they are there and can provide support in programing in Python or things like that.
  • The most important thing about this is these experts who come are not experts, but other researchers, so it is peer to peer support. So I spoke about Nectar virtual machines earlier and I saw that in front of me at a happy hour. Someone came in and said “I want to learn how to use Nectar”, she was a geologist, and there was another bioinformatician there. They would never normally talk to one another, and he said “yes I know how to do that I will give you a hand”. So we have expertise within our universities and organisations and we can link the slightly more expert people to the slightly less expert people.

Ingrid:

  • That doesn’t sound that hard creating the opportunity. Trying to find out what is available is no small task, anyone that’s been involved in any kind of funded project activity, it feels like you are slowly scraping away the surface to gain an understanding of a whole lot more about what has been going on within the university. I mentioned in some sciences they have been doing data and technology intensive research for over 30+ years and I just think, I have no idea of what they do but that is not my background.

Audience member:

  • Lots of to help bridge that knowledge.

Audience member:

  • What I have learned going to research data things last year is that being able to find/ make time for ourselves and colleagues is challenging. Being able to prioritise it, even if we think this is actually the future and we should know about this, is really hard, and the best thing we can do is build community so we have other witnesses and other people putting energy into that space to move it forward. We have identified like our faculty outreach librarian to know more about where to point people in terms of infrastructure and next generation tools. We also need to be developing in our libraries the expertise, like the units and the people who are doing those data projects that actually feed back into our services. Everything I learned about being a data librarian was being in a data library team, not at university. I had some experience in managing data but learned a whole lot more. So I think that would be a common experience.

Ingrid:

  • (Reflected on a past training session where an audience member offered advice to the facilitator. They suggested partnering quick users with strugglers to all arrive together during lunch time)

Audience member:

  • It is when you are asked a curly question as a librarian is when you do start to learn new things, or if it is harder stuff you have to do the work. So maybe there is a way to share some use cases and scenarios with each other. It is all so theoretical if you do not know how this is being applied. Maybe there is a way to get some real hands on experience where we go “ok, that was a question that was asked and that was the pathway that we followed to address that need”. You do not need to know exactly how to do it; you just need to know how to reach the answer.

Ingrid:

  • So that (training) example to this day, I have no idea if guidance information was created as a result of that exchange. I would hope it was, I know it caused a buzz, but they were lucky because they had a nice colleague in IT who said sure. I would love to see papers at the e-research conference beautifully communicated when you have these incidents, when have those opportunities or when you create those moments, if we are going to see the transformation in research that we would like to see, this is the kind of thing we need to make it possible for people to replicate.

Matthias:

  • I can generally teach from a script, and that’s what I generally do in software carpentry, there is a script that’s produced and I teach it. I someone asks an off script question then I am surrounded by helpers who know a little bit more than me.

Audience member:

  • If people are interested in learning about carpentry skills, there are some on Git Hub repository on library carpentry which is a bit more of an entry level way of librarians learning those skills and being able to understand a bit more about what researchers go through to analyse their data.

Matthias:

  • Software, data and library carpentry are all open access materials. There are repositories on Git Hub and all materials are there including set up instructions and you can work through them yourself. They are very clearly laid out/ written and if you get stuck you can tweet for help.

Ingrid:

  • We need to tell people what we are doing when we have a go at this these things. Asked by my boss “What do you think e-research needs?” and I turned around and said more librarians thank you. So please come in, water is good.